Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Some folks should just leave well enough alone

Mac had many admirable qualities, but not tact. He was the sort of man who would have tried to cheer Napoleon up by talking about the Winter Sports in Moscow.

(from Summer Lightning, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)


Some arguments are just not logical

"Do you find him an entertaining companion?"
Millicent yawned. "Mr. Carmody? No, not particularly."
"A dull young man, I should have thought."
"Vap to a degree."
"And yet you went riding with him last Tuesday."
"Anything's better than riding alone."
"You play tennis with him, too."
"Well, tennis is a game I defy you to play by yourself."

(from Summer Lightning, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)

The second most recognizable march

No doubt The Stars and Stripes Forever is the most familiar march to the general public. Next in line? Probably National Emblem, especially when the trombones and tubas come in.

LINK to the Marine Band playing National Emblem

Monday, September 29, 2014

Bonita Granville on going to the movies

Bonita Granville was a minor star from the golden age of Hollywood. She is probably best remembered for the four Nancy Drew movies in which she played the title role in 1938 and 1939. 

According to the IMDb website, she made this statement in 1972: "I don't go to the movies. They're indecent. They appeal to the baser tendencies, to temptations. Young people aren't able to cope with them, all this sex starting too early. It's thrown at them under the guise of art. But it's really immoral, amoral stuff , made just for the money."

Wouldn't it be something if someone in Hollywood had that attitude today?


I am what I am

We hear this expression used occasionally. Frequently it is used to mean, "I do what I do, and I am not going to do any differently, even if I can." A man may naturally of a quick temper; that may be his natural disposition. However, despite the fact that he is what he is, he is not forced to haul off and hit someone every time he feels anger within him. We are able to stifle our emotions and bring them under control - if we will. Far too often people say "I cannot," when what they ought to admit is, "I will not." Natural tendencies do not excuse sinful behavior.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Dropping things on people's heads

Evidently dropping heavy objects from roofs was a standard hazard of being the good guy in old movies. Charlie Chan just dodged on in Paris, Basil Rathbone had a similar experience as Sherlock Holmes, and Bob Hope also in at least a couple of movies. Better watch out above!

Curtis McCook's big problem

On the Lum and Abner radio show, Grandpappy Spears told the story of a fellow from Cherry Hill named Curtis McCook. It seems that Curtis had one large ear. His mother would never let him go outside in a high wind because it would blow him around in a circle.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Ghost Breakers (1940)

This is one of the better of the Bob Hope movies. The basic plot is that Hope and his valet (Willie Best) go with Paulette Goddard to Cuba because she has inherited a supposedly haunted castle. She receives various threats before she gets there. I will not spoil the surprise ending by telling it to you.

Suffice it to say that most of the really funny lines are given to Best, who delivers them in masterful, bug-eyed fashion. This was one of his better roles because he got  more opportunity to speak.

One undervalued facet of the movie is the wonderful music score composed by classical composer Ernst Toch. It helps to maintain the tension in what is essentially a comedy built upon a serious theme.


I heard an owl hooting a few times before breakfast today (my breakfast, not his). It reminded me of how "owlhoot" is an example of words that have mysteriously evolved in American history. Owls are nocturnal animals, and so, somehow, "riding the owlhoot trail" became synonymous with nighttime activity. Assume that most criminal deeds occur at night because the people doing them want to remain unseen, and you have "owlhoot" equalling "criminal."


Friday, September 26, 2014

Francis the Talking Mule (1950)

This is a classic movie and the first of what became a series of movies. Donald O'Connor is the (human) hero of the film. While lost in the Burma jungle, he is rescued by a mule who can talk. Because he tells the brass about it, he is in and out of the psycho ward, but in the meantime Francis makes a hero of him. Chill Wills is the voice of Francis. Patricia Medina is the femme fatale. I will not spoil the plot by telling you the ending, but it is great fun. Wonderful movie for kids and adults.

At one point in the movie, the commanding general, played by John McIntire, makes his appearance. He is named Gen. Stevens in the movie, but, of course, in real life the commander in Burma was General Joseph "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell.

By the way, this movie holds a special place in my personal history, because my wife and I saw it on TV on our honeymoon.l



Francis' great-aunt Regret

In the Francis the Talking Mule series of movies, Francis sometimes refers to his great-aunt Regret. Presumably he was talking about the racehorse of note. She was the first of only three fillies to win the Kentucky Derby.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Keye Luke - Charlie Chan's son

Of the actors who played children of detective Charlie Chan in the movie series, my favorite is
Keye Luke. He was generally less goofy than the others, and thus more believable. Luke was an artist, and worked on some of the murals in Grauman's Chinese Theatre.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Charlie Chan at the Race Track (1936)

In this Charlie Chan entry, Warner Oland plays the title role, assisted by Keye Luke as son Lee. In an important race, jockey Frankie Darro is involved in throwing a race for a gambling ring. George Irving calls in Charlie to investigate, but then he is conveniently killed by a horse, or at least it appears that way. However, Charlie proves that it was done by an instrument simulating a horse's hoof. Mysterious threatening notes keep showing up threatening the life of the horse. Then Charlie discovers that a gun is placed in the photoelectric gun used for photos at different spots in the race.



Military bands

Some of the best entertainment values around are the military musical performing groups, especially the lead (national) organizations. In the first place, admittance is free. In the second, the level of performance is very high, especially in the bands. There are few, if any, professional bands that match up with the major orchestras. Usually the best you will hear are those from some of the major universities. However, if you are a top-flight euphonium or saxophone player who wants to play something other than jazz, where do you go? The answer is to one of the military bands. If you get a caance to hear any of these musical organizations, do not pass it up.

I have heard the main bands for the Air Force, Army and Marines (and all were excellent), along with some of the regional and subsidiary groups. Perhaps the most interesting is the Marine Band, nicknamed "The President's Own," because its primary mission is to provide music for the President. Perhaps because of that, its uniforms are the most colorful and ornate, and its program the most conservative.

Marine Corps Band

The death of Bill Millin, D Day bagpiper

Millin's piping the troops ashore at Normandy is one of the colorful stories of World War II. Here is a television remembrance on the occasion of his death.


More HERE about Bill Millin.

Politics: a necessary evil

Having to endure the electoral process is much better than not having a true electoral process, so I am thankful for it. However, I do think a few common-sense things could be done to make the process shorter, and therefore less expensive, not to mention less irritating.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Actresses who played Mary Wesley

She was Boston Blackie's girlfriend. Lesley Woods played the role opposite Chester Morris on radio. Jan Minor played her opposite Richard Kollmar on radio. Lois Collier played the part opposite Kent Taylor on television. Her role was not included in the movie series.




The lesson from the tortoise

Aesop's fable taught us that the race does not always go to the swift, and thus we ought also to value perseverance and to be wary of arrogance. However, there is another lesson to be learned from the tortoise in that story: it is not that he won the race because of the hare's overconfidence, but that he finished the race at all. You see, the tortoise was carrying a heavy load that took its toll in fatigue, but the plodder still ran the race. Had the rabbit been more careful, he would have won the race easily - but the tortoise still would have finished.

Those who are hindered or disabled by age or infirmity must learn very quickly the lesson of the tortoise. There is no way we can do what those who are young and healthy can do. They outstrip us in speed, strength and stamina. Whether the race is long or short, they will cross the finish line first. The point we who are less able must learn, and learn quickly, is that we may not win, but we can still run. We may not be as able to accomplish things as we once were or as others are, but we can still do things - some things, at some speed - and so we ought to press on, for a half loaf is better than none. A trickle may not fill the bucket as quickly as a gush, but it will eventually fill it. Because of a pinched nerve in my neck I am typing this with one hand because to use my left hand is soon very uncomfortable, and it is taking much longer than it normally would; but you see, I did finally get through, didn't I?

Finally, I would remind all of us that as long as our minds are functioning we can still pray, no matter what our physical disabilities may be; and that is the most important thing, anyway.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Brownsville, Arkansas

Brownsville is an unincorporated community located on State Highway 23 a few miles north  of Booneville just before you reach Chismville, At this time it is pretty much a residental hamlet. There is a church house at the north edge of town just off the highway, and there used to be a store right in the middle of the community, but it has been out of business for several years as of this writing (2014). There are several gas wells in the area. Other than that, it is a quiet collection of homes. However, Brownsville is strategically located. It is closer than Booneville to Ozark and Interstate 40, and to the eastern and northern sides of Fort Smith, the main industrial center in western Arkansas. It also is the first straight stretch where you can pass slower traffic if headed north on Highway 23.

But to local residents, one of the main features of Brownsville probably is that it is located just north of Booneville (Pisgah) Mountain, a ridge that presents a major difficulty to travel when there is snow. The descent on the north side of the hill is steep and is largely unprotected with guard rails. After that point, the travel to Forth Smith is relatively unchallenging, so to live on its north side is a big plus if you have to travel that direction.

More HERE about Booneville

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The real life Charlie Chan

The inspiration behind the series of books and the classic group of movies was Honolulu detective Chang Apana.

Here is a LINK about him.


Who sponsored Costello?

Who was the sponsor of Lou Costello as a boxer in the movie Buck Privates? His robe said, "Eat at Joe's Grill." He also had a heart on his boxing trunks.


More HERE about Abbott and Costello

Moving from old radio show to old movies

Because we did not have a television, our children grew up listening to old radio shows from the 1930s-1950s. As our collection grew, we became more familiar with the stars of the programs. We also listened to a lot of old movies adapted for radio on programs such as Lux Radio Theater. Later we got a television set to watch videos for schooling, and we began to collect videos of old movies from the same period. Again,over time we researched the movies by the names we knew from the radio shows, and our collection of movies has expanded as did our radio shows. Today we have extensive collections of both, and they are great fun.

Now, some of our grandchildren are listening to old radio shows that their great-grandparents grew up with.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Ultimate restful sound - flute and harp

Each by itself is wonderful, but together they are like gently rippling stream. Here is a LINK to some beautiful Japanese music for flute and harp.


More HERE on the harp.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Floyd the Bomber

On the episode of Peter Gunn entitled "A Slight Touch of Homicide," Howard McNear (Floyd the Barber on the Andy Griffith Show) plays a grand jury member who takes it upon himself to kill with bombs gangsters who were not convicted. It is a little hard to picture Floyd as a bad guy, but in this show he was.


More HERE on Howard McNear.

The sheik's tragedy

He was the sixth in the family line to assume the shiekdom, and thus he was the Sixth Sheik. He owned a flock of prize sheep, all of registered stock. They were numbered in order of their births. The sixth to be born was his particular favorite, and thus was known by the Royal Shepherds as the Sixth Shiek's sixth sheep. Sadly, this beloved animal took ill, and a messenger was sent to the Royal Veterinarian. Said messenger dashed to the doc's office and blurted out, "The Sixth Shiek's sixth sheep's sick." He blurted it out - can you?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Alexander Nevsky - that is my opinion, too

According to Wikipedia:
Valery Gergiev, the principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, has stated his opinion that Prokofiev's music for this film is "the best ever composed for the cinema".

A very good assessment. I agree with him.

The Lone Ranger and the Count of Monte Cristo

In the movie, The Son of Monte Cristo (1940), Clayton Moore plays the part of a young lieutenant helping the good guys. Children of my generation knew him as the Lone Ranger in the TV series. Since we never saw him without his mask on TV, I did not know exactly what he looked like. However, his voice gave him away.

Moore with Louis Hayward as Monte Cristo

Judgement, or sympathy

          "Do not judge a man until you have walked in his shoes." We perhaps have heard that saying many times; and while there is an element of truth in it, on the whole it is simply wrong.
          The element of truth is that if there are extenuating circumstances in a man's life, you will not be able fully to know them without firsthand knowledge of his circumstances. I cannot sympathize with him without walking in his shoes.
          The error in the statement is that I do not need to have intimate knowledge of everyone's circumstances in order to know that wrong is wrong. Sin (misconduct) is wrong because it is contrary to God, his nature and his word. Put another way, sin is wrong because God said it is wrong. If a man has done something that God has pronounced wrong, I do not need to know the man's circumstances in order to judge that what he did is wrong.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Peter Gunn's "office"

He worked out of Mother's, a wharfside jazz club, always filled with cigarette smoke. The cool jazz that was played on the program was actually really good.

British Sterling

Like most things colognes are matters of fashion. When I was in high school, English Leather and Brut were very popular for every day use. However, British Sterling was the "Cadillac" cologne - the one you used if you really wanted to impress the girls. I have no idea if any of those are used much any more.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Balm for the ears

I arose this morning, as usual these days, in considerable discomfort because if my neck issues, at 6:00 to take my Ibuprophen fix. On normal days my wife has me get her up at 7:00 to walk with a friend. However, it sounded like it might be raining, so I went out on the carport stoop to see. It was, very gently, so I sat down to listen for a few minutes on the theory that if my body cannot be comfortable, I at least ought to let my soul enjoy it. It was right at that moment when the birds had decided it was daylight enough to start singing, but one stalwart cricket was holding out that it was still night enough to chirp. It was a balm to the ears. 

More HERE about crickets.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Moira Lister - another actress who married a blueblood

In 1951, Moira Lister married Jacques de Gachassin-Lafite Vicomte d’Orthez, a French officer of the Spahis, owner of a champagne vineyard and hero of the Rif .

In the 1940s, she was a friend of sadistic murderer, Neville Heath, however she didn't know his real name. She was invited out to dinner by him a week after he had brutally murdered another woman. He walked her home, kissing her goodnight. Weeks later he murdered another woman. He was eventually caught and hung in England in 1946. Lister believed her blond hair saved her life as both of Heath's victims were dark-haired.


Clever exchange from the movie "The Inner Circle"

Policeman: "What's the matter; are you hard of hearing?"

Old man: "No, I'm slow of thinking. By asking you to repeat it gives me a chance to catch up."

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Medicine is not a profession any more

It is a racket. It was a profession when its great concern was healing people. Now its great concern is raking in huge sums of money - along with the insurance companies - along with the lawyers. And do not blame this one on Obamacare, because it was this way a good while before Obamacare came along.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Famous people have long been trashy

Just read the lives of the rich and famous down through history. But today their trash gets sensationalized, and thus glamorized. Who cares about them, anyway?

Old Walmart buildings - blots on the landscape

We are in the process of getting our third Walmart building in the small town where I live. So what happens to old Walmarts? Well, sometimes the find new tenants, but almost always they take on a shabby, seedy appearance and become local eyesores. Just one more reason not to like that company.


The nature of love

There are many aspects of love found woven all through God's word, but one of the chief of them is unselfishness. By that I mean not only the opposite of greed, but also the selflessness - being focused on others and their needs.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The quietness after the storm

This phrase has been used poetically many times, but it describes a very real phenomenon. I am sitting at the table in our kitchen this morning, looking out at the aftermath of the thunderstorm that just passed through. The violence is gone and there is a complete stillness over the landscape. What a blessing that our kind heavenly Father gives us periods of stillness after the stresses and tumults of our life so that we can heal and reflect.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Major Hochstetter and Kitty on Peter Gunn

In the Peter Gunn episode entitled "The Briefcase," two of the guest stars are Howard Caine (Major Hochstetter on Hogan's Heroes) and Barbara Stuart (Kitty on Gomer Pyle).



One of the best criminal faces ever

Robert Carricart. What roles are you going to get with a face like this other than bad guy roles?


A game our family has enjoyed is one in which a player picks an unusual word, and then the other players make up a definition  and everyone tries to pick the right one. (There is a commercial version available, but we did it on our own with slips of paper.)

At one session of this game, someone chose the word stirps, which has as one definition in legal usage, "a person from whom a family is descended." From that time our clan has titled my father (currently 90 years old) "The Stirps."

Maggie, Arkansas

Along State Highway 10 in southeastern Logan County, Arkansas, running from west to east, the last two incorporated towns are Magazine and Blue Mountain; and east of Blue Mountain  in Yell County is the unincorporated community of Waveland. In one of the examination rooms at a clinic in Fort Smith, I recently saw a map of the railroads in Arkansas from about the year 1900. It was quite interesting. I noticed that along the stretch of the Rock Island railroad corresponding to the area described above along the highway were Magazine. Maggie, and Waveland - but no Blue Mountain.

I had never heard of Maggie, so I asked a couple of local residents who are well-informed on South Logan County history if they knew anything about it. Yes, it happened that they did. Maggie was a small community located just west of Blue Mountain where the highway and railroad cleared the top of the uphill grade coming from the east. The pull was a long one, and evidently Maggie was the logical place to put a railroad stop, instead of at Blue Mountain. There are still a few houses near where Maggie must have been, but the Highway Department has placed no community name sign there, as they frequently do at other unincorporated "wide spots in the road," and so Maggie has pretty much passed from the public's notice.

One wonders who the lady was for whom the community was named.

Religious debate

Until we began allowing television to destroy our minds and habits, public debating was a common feature of American life. Frequently such large crowds would gather that the debates had to be held outdoors to accommodate them. It took a sharp mind to follow the arguments from each side, let alone to decide which was correct. They were a FAR cry from the glorified press conferences that are called political debates today. Whatever one may think of the propriety of such exercises, there can be no doubt that such public displays of rhetoric (at least the better ones) were wonderful tests of the public's mental ability and were profitable to the development of it.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Why actors never stop acting

You could never tell who might come into the Restaurant Maillaux, or what might be the effect of her charm, her youth, her piquancy, on some guest who was looking for just that, who had almost, perhaps, decided not to produce that delightful little play because nowhere, in no casting office, had he found just the girl, with just the charm, the piquancy, for the leading part. And here, where he would least expect it, he would come upon the girl, drudging with hats and coats as Cinderella drudged at whatever menial tasks Cinderella drudged at. (Cecily was not very precise on this.)

(from Murder Is Served, by Richard and Frances Lockridge)


The murder blackmail fallacy

Occasionally in old radio shows or old movies you will encounter a woman who is blackmailing someone who has committed murder. That is a very puzzling and illogical plot twist, since a person who has murdered is not likely to shy from doing it again - and that is usually what happens. I guess there were stupid people in fiction as well as in real life.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Peter Gunn's cool cars

Gunn was a cool detective who drove cool cars. They were cool in my childhood, and they are cool now. However, as is the case with all cars, they went through a period when they were not cool. The cars of your grandfather's era are cool; the cars of your father's are not.

1959 Plymouth Sport Fury [MP2-P]

The downward progression

What was scandalous to one generation becomes "not that bad" to the next simply because it is not as bad as what is going on currently. The downward progression is as old as mankind. One help that we have today, due to the printing press, is that we can document the decline over the generations and see that men 100 years ago were lamenting it just as we are today, but the things they were lamenting have become widely accepted - even among church folks. This ought to alarm us and cause us to reform, but that never seems to happen - and so the decline continues. A knowledge of history has many advantages, but they are seldom used.

Ignoring pain

I am no expert, and the pain with which I am dealing is not at an excruciating level, but I do sense that the mind has, at least to some degree, the ability to ignore pain, especially when it is otherwise occupied.

Friday, September 05, 2014

"Steal you blind"

That is an interesting expression. I suppose it means that a man is such an incorrigible thief that he would take even your sight if he could. How strangely we express ourselves in the English language sometimes!

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Our effect upon others

Since no man is an island, as has been said, anything we do has a ripple effect. Each man has a duty to live correctly so that his life will not have a negative impact upon others. That puts an added weight upon our decisions and self-discipline, does it not?

Wednesday, September 03, 2014


A surplus of anything cheapens its value in the market. So it is with communication today. Much is being said, but little of it is of any worth.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

An ill-tempered mount?

The first was a grulla, a mouse-colored mustang who, judging by disposition, was sired out of a Missouri mule by a mountain lion with a sore tooth.  That grulla was the most irritating, cantankerous bit of horseflesh I ever saw, and he could buck like a sidewinder on a red-ant hill.

(from The Daybreakers, by Louis Lamour)

Monday, September 01, 2014

Underrated Presidents?

I absolutely am no Presidential scholar, and I am going on little more than a gut feel based on what I have read over the years and observed in my own lifetime. However, I think it is likely that among our Presidents are a few whom history has underrated. Here are three.

John Adams. Anyone who was sandwiched between George Washington and Thomas Jefferson is naturally going to be overlooked somewhat. Adams was one of the great statesmen in the formation of our country, and it can be assumed he brought that ability to the table as President, even if he did not bring a winning personality.

James Monroe. Many of the "great" presidents are considered so because they served in times of stress, and therefore had a crisis to which they could rise and make their mark. Monroe had no such crisis, but the national scene was so smooth during his two terms that it is called the Era of Good Feelings. The credit may not all have been his, but we must assume he deserved some of it.

Theodore Roosevelt. He had the gumption to take on not only the powerful industrialists of his time, but the pro-business wing of his own party which had held largely a political monopoly since the War Between the States. Whatever else he had, he had courage.

What we are doing to our memories

"Cap knew that country, knew every creek and every fork. There were no maps except what a man had in his skull, and nobody of whom to ask directions, so a body remembered what he saw. Cap knew a thousand miles of country like a man might know his kitchen, to home."

This quote is from the Louis Lamour novel, The Daybreakers. It illustrates the active, vigorous memories men had in those days because they had to have them. Their very lives depended upon their memories. Now we have machines to remember for us, and we are allowing our brains to atrophy. That cannot be a good thing.